Our church is small. We’re so small that it’s not uncommon for regular schmucks like me to be asked to lead some part of the service so everyone can help carry the load. Before Easter, a lovely woman asked me to lead communion. Most of it is scripted and so I didn’t see a problem with it until the day before when I looked at the script and saw that I was supposed to give a 1 to 2 minute reflection on what communion means to me. Considering this was EASTER SUNDAY, which is like the Super Bowl Sunday of church life, the pressure was on.
I got considerably nervous because I haven’t quite figured out what I believe about the crucifixion/resurrection and here I am supposed to be leading a whole group of people through it on the biggest Christian celebration of the year.
The morning of, I hadn’t quite come up with a game plan yet except to just read the Scripture and skip the reflection part. It’s not the best plan, but it’s a plan and it’s what I had.
We had a screen-free Sabbath and, before church, I was sitting in our kitchen watching our trees blowing in the wind and appreciating the buds, because apparently that’s the kind of thing that I do when I don’t have screens to distract me. It got me thinking about winter, when our hibernating trees have branches that look like witch fingers that will definitely scratch against the window in the middle of the night. Every Spring, without fail, they bud and grow leaves and provide us with a significant amount of shade.
This pattern got me thinking about cycles of death and life. I happened to be holding The Baby and giving him some water and I thought about how he emerged into this world at 26 weeks only to be entombed in the NICU for five months before emerging victoriously (or barfily) for his new life outside a hospital. It got me thinking about how The Kid just turned 13 and we’re already witnessing the slow death of his childhood as he enters into a new stage where he walks towards adulthood.
I can think of a million different “deaths” that I have endured- seasons, relationships, actual deaths, job endings, faith deconstructions, my colorblind worldview. The crazy thing is that, as difficult as they have been in the midst of them, they have almost always created new life. Death is sucky and we hate it and we want to avoid it as much as possible but without it, we wouldn’t understand what life is. We need death to push us forward, because without it, I would be married to the wrong person, making $17,000/year as a paraprofessional in a school district, and probably a person who continues to misunderstand the impact that her beliefs have on people around her.
As much as the Type A control freak in me hates to feel out of control, death reels me back in and reminds me that any control I feel that I have is merely an illusion and, as much as I hate it, that’s a good conclusion for me to come to. On the rare days that I accept that I can accept this truth, I do feel at peace. Death did that! Death has to happen before new life and the fact that God built that cycle into the structure of the world is significant.
And that’s what I shared on Sunday- that cycles of death and new life are part of creation and there’s something sacred about them.